11/13/2012 04:45 pm ET

Ken Salazar Threatened To Punch Dave Philipps, Colorado Springs Gazette Reporter, Witnesses Say

A member of President Barack Obama's cabinet is facing controversy after reports of a terse exchange with a newspaper reporter.

Last Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former senator from Colorado, appeared at an Election Day event in the Colorado Springs suburb of Fountain, The Desert Independent reports. Politico adds that Salazar was approached by Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Dave Philipps, who asked him a question about an issue involving oversight of the state's wild horse population.

The Cloud Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates for the protection of wild horses, published a press release on Monday, alleging that Salazar's response included a "punch you out" threat to Philipps:

Just after Secretary Salazar answered final questions about the future safety of wild horses and he turned to leave the interview, he unexpectedly approached Philipps and told him, “If you set me up like this again, I’ll punch you out.”

Standing nearby was Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of the Cloud Foundation, a Colorado-based wild horse advocacy organization. “I was stunned by the Secretary’s rude and clearly hostile comment toward Dave,” said Kathrens.

Salazar has been criticized on this issue in the past. Back in 2009, he was under fire for a proposal to move thousands of Western wild horses to Midwest and East preserves.



The Obama Cabinet